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The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, examined the association between running and mortality risk using a database of 55,137 men and women (ages 18 to 100). Those adults visited the Cooper Clinic and Cooper Institute in Dallas for medical exams and completed health questionnaires that included questions about how they exercise (for example, if they regularly ran and how far and fast they ran).
The researchers followed up 15 years later to check the participants' death records and found that those who said they were runners had significantly lower risk of death compared to the non-runners. From the abstract:
During a mean follow-up of 15 years, 3,413 all-cause and 1,217 cardiovascular deaths occurred. Approximately 24% of adults participated in running in this population. Compared with nonrunners, runners had 30% and 45% lower adjusted risks of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, respectively, with a 3-year life expectancy benefit.
The researchers adjusted for obesity and smoking factors as well -- but even overweight smokers who ran were less likely to die earlier than those who didn't run.
Even more important, running even at slow speeds (under 10 kilometres an hour) for 5 to 10 minutes a day was also associated with reduced risks of premature death and heart disease.
Talking to The New York Times, Timothy Church, who co-authored the study, says that it's probably not running in particular that matters, but the high-intensity exercise:
Anyone who has never run in the past or has health issues should, of course, consult a doctor before starting a running program, Dr. Church said. And if, after trying for a solid five minutes, you're just not enjoying running, switch activities, he added. Jump rope. Vigorously pedal a stationary bike. Or choose any other strenuous activity. Five minutes of taxing effort might add years to your life.
Tl;dr: If you want to stick around a little longer, no more excuses. Get moving! It doesn't have to take long.